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Tributes to Deal amusement and Dymchurch fairground owner Michael Woolls

By Andy Stevens

One of the Kent coast's most colourful characters, who has brought all the joy and fun of the seaside for an incredible eight decades to generations of residents and visitors, has died after a short battle with cancer.

John Michael Woolls, known to everyone as Michael, passed away on Saturday May 9, with his son Mark and daughter Louise by his side.

Michael Woolls in recent years
Michael Woolls in recent years

He was a loving husband, father of three, grandfather of seven and great-grandfather to three.

Michael was born in Hastings on September 19, 1936, son of Rosie and John Woolls.

He started his early years on the travelling fairgrounds which visited Deal during regatta and carnival week and was situated north of the Royal Hotel on Deal seafront.

This was where he found his love for Deal and later chose to settle here.

He opened Marina Amusements in 1953 at the North End of Deal bringing fun, enjoyment and happiness to many with the skating rink, arcade and bingo.

Woolls motor cycle drome in the early 1950s
Woolls motor cycle drome in the early 1950s

Michael then met his late wife Patricia and together they embarked on their colourful journey.

They moved from the North End to Pier View Amusements, Beach Street, where they started their family and had three children.

He then extended his business to include Sea View, Deal Beach Parlour, Royal Leisure and The Strand Arcade.

Michael was a focal point around the businesses and around Deal town itself, mingling with many generations.

He will always be remembered for the trilby he wore, his straight talking and his colourful stories which he shared with many.

The Woolls empire: Pier View Amusements (right) Sea View fish & Chips restaurant, both in Beach Street, and Royal Leisure in King Street.(34896791)
The Woolls empire: Pier View Amusements (right) Sea View fish & Chips restaurant, both in Beach Street, and Royal Leisure in King Street.(34896791)

In 1996 Michael went on to acquire Dymchurch Amusement Park, taking him right back to the beginning of his Showman years, where he had worked as a child alongside his father.

He will be fondly remembered in Dymchurch for his love of his dodgems.

He was at his happiest when he was at work and among the people who meant the most to him, his family, who all supported him throughout the years and have all followed in his footsteps, including his grandchildren who are all proud to have worked with and learnt from the master himself.

Michael’s son and daughter have paid touching tributes to their beloved dad.

Son Mark said: “I have lost my dad and my best mate, and I will very sadly miss him,” and daughter Louise added: “He was a real one in a million dad. He always kept us safe. He was a protector; a strong force. Even to this day he would put out his hand to help me as I crossed the road.”

Dymchurch Amusement Park
Dymchurch Amusement Park

Along with his family, Michael’s other passion in life was his magnificent, historic Dutch street organ, which was often seen and heard on Deal seafront, where he raised money for charities.

John Trickey chairman of Deal Carnival Association paid tribute to Mr Woolls.

He said: "Michael, as head of the Woolls family, has been a major sponsor of Deal Regatta week, long before the 24 years we have been running it.

"The family sponsored the Party on the Prom, Baby Show, Junior Lorry Pull and last year for the first time they sponsored the Ska/Reggae Night.

"He was always kind and kind to the girls and made a fuss of them.

The fair near the Royal Hotel in Deal 1951
The fair near the Royal Hotel in Deal 1951

"He will be sadly missed."

On Monday June 1 at noon the Musik Maker Organ will be playing as Michael makes his final journey along Deal seafront to his final resting place.

If anyone would like to say goodbye and pay their respects to Michael, please join the family on Deal prom near Pier View Amusements.

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